When working magick in a group or coven, everybody brings different skills and talents to the table. You may have a booming voice, a knack for writing rituals, or an astounding psychic gift. Or (let's face it) you might not. Not everybody's contributions are equal. But next time you start to feel intimidated by the attainments of others, remember this: You can surpass loads of candidates just by being a basically decent person.
Yep, it's true--there are a lot of jerks in the occult world. Some express their personality faults mainly in a magickal setting (I call them "circle jerks"), and some are bonafide full-time asshats. Perhaps it is the lure of secret power that draws them in--who knows? Fortunately, magickal orders, covens, and teachers usually get to choose who will benefit from their training. And most sane adults would rather spend their time on someone who's eager to learn than someone who "knows it all".
Magickal jerks are well-versed in regular old mundane jerk behavior: Showing up late. Dominating conversations. Freeloading. Putting down or undermining the work of others. In addition, the disruptive power of a jerk will wreak havoc on the subtle energy in a magickal setting. Magickal meanies excel at hoarding or re-directing energy, distracting other participants, destroying trust and good feelings everywhere they go. The jerk derails whatever the original focus of the working was, and instead makes it all about his or her self. Sometimes, a jerk will demand initiation or attention she has yet to earn from the group, creating a further imbalance of energy.
On the other hand, just being nice usually puts you on the fast track to acceptance within a magickal group. "Nice" behavior is pretty obvious: Listen more than talk. Say "please" and "thank you". Honor your commitments. Keep your energy in harmony with the direction of the group. Critique others only when you're invited to do so. When you treat your peers and teachers with common courtesy, you're likely to get the same in return.
Even though we're talking about magickal groups, this last point also applies to the solitary practitioner. Every being that you encounter on your path, whether spirit or flesh, in person or on the page, will yield greater rewards if you approach it with respect.
Being nice doesn't mean you have to keep from asking difficult questions. It doesn't mean you have to only do safe (i.e. "fluffy bunny") magick. It doesn't stop you from calling out mistakes, excesses, and abuses where you find them. It's really no harder than cultivating an open mind and a humble heart to go along with that honest tongue.
So being a jerk is a social liability, but is it really a magickal shortcoming, as well? I would venture to say, "Yes!" A jerk acts selfishly. To put that another way, a jerk is caught up in that old illusion of separateness--he doesn't have the gnosis that the group's success is his own success, and that the achievements of others reflect his own potential. The jerk hasn't graduated spiritually from the three-year-old's perspective of "Me me me." I'm not saying that jerks can't be effective magicians--some are able to manifest results through sheer force of will. But the results achieved by a jerk aren't likely to be in her long-term best interests. And they almost never align with the interests of a group.
One more thing: Magickal jerks occasionally wind up as magickal leaders. For some reason that only the Gods can fathom, it is often easier for narcissistic, insecure, and abusive people to gather followers than it is for nice people. A jerk with a Third Degree is just a third-degree jerk. Pay them no mind, and go your own way.
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